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Hours before it would otherwise expire, Evanston aldermen are scheduled to vote Monday night on a resolution that would extend the city’s COVID-19 state of emergency declaration through June 8.

The vote will be taken as data from the state indicates that the Northeast Illinois region has not yet made enough progress in reducing the positive test result rate for the novel coronavirus to move from the current Phase 2 of the Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-home order to the moderately less restrictive Phase 3.

Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan sets several criteria for moving to the next phase — including that the positive result rate for COVID-19 tests must be under 20% for two weeks.

The other three regions of the state are on track to meet that goal, but so far Northeast Illinois, which includes the Chicago metro area, is not.

The criteria also call for stable or decreasing hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness for 28 days. All the state’s regions appear at this point to be on track to meet that goal, but could not achieve it until May 28 at the earliest.

They also call for each region to have available surge capacity of at least 14% for medical and surgical hospital beds, intensive care unit beds and ventilators. All regions currently meet that standard, but there is the smallest amount of margin above that threshold in the Northeast region.

Pritzker’s rules also call for sufficient COVID-19 testing availability, but don’t have a specific number attached to that standard. And, finally, the rules call for contact tracing and monitoring for all patients to begin within 24 hours of diagnosis.

It’s not yet clear how close the regions are to meeting that standard, and the state is only beginning to ramp up a program to hire nearly 4,000 additional contact tracers.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has outlined a somewhat more restrictive set of standards for opening her city than those outlined by the governor.

Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty said this weekend that Evanston is likely to be in the current “flattening” phase of the COVID-19 response “for a while” and he hasn’t yet developed any new guidelines for how Evanston might more on to the next phase.

Under the governor’s rules, local governments can impose additional restrictions beyond those required by the state, but can’t adopt less restrictive ones.

June 8, the proposed new local emergency declaration expiration date, is the date of the first scheduled City Council meeting in June.


Update 5/12/20 9 a.m.: Aldermen voted unanimously Monday night to extend the state of emergency declaration, which is needed for the city to qualify for federal reimbursement of ongoing expenses related to the pandemic.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

  1. Covid extension

    City counsel, please do not extend the emergency declaration.  Thanks to public health education, we know what to do…social distance, wash hands…we know those over the age of 65 are overwhelmingly effected.   We know what to do.  It is time to treat as the civically minded community’s that we are.  It is time to acknowledge that life has risks and rewards.  Businesses should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to open and the criteria from a public health perspective to let patrons in.  We as citizens can make our own decision whether to patronize that business.  The city needs tax revenue to  support government services.  Trust the people.

    1. Your emotional reply is heard

      Your emotional reply is heard, but the numbers in Evanston still aren’t going down enough.

      Releasing restrictions too soon can only result in disaster; both on an economic and public health level. Opening up restrictions when very few feel confident about going out will not help businesses hurt by this terrible pandemic. But it will embolden the few who throw caution to the wind to keep this fire of infection alive. As much as I have seen my fellow Evanstonions be respectful of pandemic guidance, I think I may be living in an enclave of a couple of hours a day.

      The numbers simply don’t justify the lifting of restrictions.

  2. Covid Positivity

    Please explain this- if only sick people are tested for covid19, how will the % positive go down? Are healthy people being tested?

    1. Testing

      Hi Fran,

      Initially there was ony enough testing capacity to test those who were very sick with symptoms that matched those known to be associated with the disease. But since those symptoms also can be a sign of many other conditions, even then most tests did not returned positive results.

      As testing capacity has expanded, more people with less severe symptoms and people who are asymptomatic but may have been exposed to someone with the disease are being tested.

      Since many people who get the disease don’t show symptoms themselves but can still spread it to others who may become sick, the expanded testing is important to be able to tell how widely the disease is spreading in the community and therefore how much the stay-at-home rules are needed to slow the spread.

      In Illinois generally the positive rate has been going down as testing has expanded — but it is still much higher in the Chicago area than in other parts of the state.

      — Bill

  3. It would help us readers if

    It would help us readers if Evanston Now would include in its daily data the percentage of positive cases to the number of tested for Evanston.  Mr. Smith, can you do that?  Thank you

    1. Positive case percentage

      Hi Greg,

      There is a tally of total tests to positive cases by zipcode here:http://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/covid19-statistics

      It doesn’t give a breakdown by day, though.

      Based on that data, the pandemic-to-date positive test rate is 15% for 60201 and 17.8% for 60202.

      I’ll try to work that into a story at least now and then — but, under the rules, the number that matters for our being able to move to the next stage of reopening is not the percentage for Evanston alone, but for the Northeast Illinois region as a whole.

      — Bill

  4. One interesting feature of

    One interesting feature of the current testing regime is that when tests are limited, a large percentage of them are given to people who are in groups more likely to have covid — whether because they’re in vulnerable populations that are targeted for testing, or because they are symptomatic and actively seeking diagnosis. 

    If we were able to increase the number of tests to rates the Governor had previously talked about, it’s very likely that the expansion would pull in many people who were semi-symptomatic and worried, but much less likely to have the disease, and the resulting positive rate would go below the threshold.  The current rate of positives is more an artifact of the testing regime than a useful measure of covid in the community. 

    Which is not to say that things are in great shape and we ought to open.  Simply that the numbers being used are somewhat arbitrary.  The state should be trying to obtain some true random samples and thinking about what level of positives in those sample would give confidence. 

    New York is far ahead of us in one sense.  They’ve developed their own antibody test, whose results suggest a pretty high degree of accuracy (ie, they return differential rates for NYC, suburbs and upstate that make sense given the known level of progress of the epidemic in those areas.  That would be unlikely if there was a significant number of false positives, which would tend to overwhelm the distinctions.)  They’re using it for some random sampling, which is giving them the lay of the land.  We’re still flying blind, with some staffer somewhere trying to run regressions on the data, with huge margins of error.

    (Yes, I do recognize that the antibody tests are a different thing.  Still, it does give them a very good idea of where they stand.  We could get a different kind of value, but still systematic, definitive value, from testing randomly for infection, if we had enough tests to do so.)

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